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UCPH to hire a diversity and equal treatment consultant

New appointments — A new consultant at the University of Copenhagen is to boost equality among genders and among Danish/international researchers.

With a newly created position as diversity and equal treatment consultant the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) is boosting its effort to avoid female and international researchers being deselected from getting academic titles.

“UCPH is committed to supporting a culture characterised by equal and fair treatment in accordance with transparent principles. One of the elements in this is to become more aware of  unconcious bias in the attraction and development of academic staff with a special focus on gender and internationalisation,” it states in the job posting.

Anja C. Andersen, who is a member of the University’s Board of Directors elected by the academic staff and Professor in the Public Understanding of Science at the Niels Bohr Institute, says the appointment of a new consultant is an experiment.

I am in favour of anything that can make a difference. Things are moving too slowly in gender equality, and management should do much more

Professor Anja C. Andersen, member of the UCPH Board of Directors

“I am in favour of anything that can make a difference. Things are moving too slowly in gender equality, and management should do much more. “Time will show whether this will have an effect, but the idea is to get someone who can focus on this area,” she says.

She adds that it is difficult to do something effective about the lack of academic gender equality during a [university, ed.] recession, when there are few new appointments, and few people change jobs.

According to Anja C. Andersen, things have previously been moved along, when there has been a focus on this problem.

When UCPH introduced a financial bonus to departments to hire a female professor and a task force was appointed some years ago, things happened in a period of time, but then things fell back to normalcy.

“We have come to realise that things do not move by themselves, but I would rather see the focus firmly rooted in day-to-day management,” she says.

Everyone prefers men

Anja C. Andersen believes that it is positive that he will focus on the unconscious bias:

“We are all suffering from unconscious bias. It is a part of the culture that men are more cool. They are sharper, more edgy and more exciting. We have been brought up to think this,” she says.

As an example, she mentions the experiences from a symphony orchestra, where the applicants were asked to play behind a curtain for an audition with the result that more women were selected for the orchestra.

Anja C. Andersen does not believe however that the method can be transposed to the academic world, as the researchers’ job applications are based on their publication lists, so their colleagues can easily work out who the applicants are for a post, even though it is done anonymously.

Another option is to give the members of the appointment committees a test to map their bias, so that they become aware of their preferences when choosing between candidates, she suggests.

It is a part of the culture that men are more cool.
Professor Anja C. Andersen, member of the UCPH Board of Directors

The latest status report for gender equality at UCPH that is titled Career, Gender and Quality. The status for the UCPH action plan for 2017 confirms that things are moving very slowly in terms of changing the situation.

“It is clear from an overall assessment of the figures, that there has not been any decisive development in the distribution between men and women in academic positions, but that UCPH as a whole upholds the status quo,” the report concludes.

Fewer female managers

There has been a slight increase in women’s percentage share of total professors from 22.8 per cent in 2016 to 24.4 per cent in 2017. Women are more likely than their male colleagues to be employed as professor with special responsibilities for a limited time period where they go back to an associate professorship unless otherwise agreed.

25 per cent of female professors have been appointed as professor with special responsibilities, while only 12 per cent of men, the report states.

When it comes to gender distribution in top management at UCPH, it is moving in the opposite direction.

The target in the last gender action plan was an increase from 27 per cent female managers in 2015 to 32 per cent at the end of 2017. Instead, there was a decrease to 26 per cent in January 2018.

“This amounts to a drop in the share of women, both in relation to 2017 and in relation to the 2015 starting point,” it says in the status report.

Everyone is confused

Thomas Vils Pedersen, associate professor and joint staff representative for academic staff at UCPH, agrees that the university faces a major problem, and that change is only happening slowly.

One consultant will not move a lot. But sometimes it requires that one person has a focus on the topic, before something happens

Thomas Vils Pedersen, representative for academic staff

“My feeling is that there is management interest in doing something about it, but everyone I talk to is confused about what will work,” says Thomas Vils Pedersen.

He believes that it seems reasonable that management wants to have a consultant with skills in this field in order to implement the university’s new strategy and give the departments feedback on the subject.

“One consultant will not move a lot. But sometimes it requires that one person has a focus on the topic, before something happens,” he says.

According to the job advertisement, equal treatment is an essential element in the strategic project ‘career development for academic staff members’ which the UCPH Board has launched to achieve its goal in its 2023 strategy called Talent and Collaboration.

Here are the job assignments

The new consultant is to manage the project “equal treatment in attracting and retaining xxxx”. In addition, the new hire has the task of developing a general diversity policy for staff and students at UCPH.

Among the tasks are professional advice, committee support, collection and analysis of data, and communication through presentations and courses, it states in the advertisement.

The diversity consultant is employed as a senior consultant. At UCPH this means an average salary of DKK 624,508 including pension, according to the website lønoverblik.dk.

UCPH management has not wished to comment on the new position, but Jasper Steen Winkel, deputy director for communication, refers to a news item on the university intranet about new UCPH strategic program for VIP career development.

In this connection six interdisciplinary strategic projects have been launched that are to generate:

  1. An internationally recognisable career path from assistant professor to professor
  2. Clearer criteria for academic careers
  3. Career development and clarification among young scientists
  4. Recognition of excellent teaching as a parameter for incentives and career paths
  5. Equal treatment in attracting and retaining academic staff

 

The application deadline for the consultant position was on 7th November.

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